Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Weiblicher Halbakt mit Hut, 1911, Öl & Leinwand, 76 x 70 cm
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Weiblicher Halbakt mit Hut/Female Half-Length Nude with Hat, 1911, oil on canvas, 76 x 70 cm

The Permanent Collection at the Museum Ludwig

In 1946, when Josef Haubrich trans­ferred his art col­lec­tion to the Ci­ty of Cologne im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter World War II, it seemed to Cologne’s resi­dents like a dis­patch from a bet­ter world. Long be­lieved to be lost, paint­ings by Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ists and other ex­po­nents of Clas­si­cal Mod­er­nism who had been per­se­cut­ed dur­ing the war and de­nounced as “de­gen­er­ate” sud­den­ly be­longed to the ci­ty’s resi­dents. That with it Haubrich would lay the corn­er­s­tone for the col­lec­tion of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig—and there­by for one the most im­por­tant mu­se­ums for mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art in Eu­rope—still lay in the dis­tant fu­ture.

Clas­si­cal Mod­er­nism and Ex­pres­sion­ism: The Haubrich Col­lec­tion

To­day, thanks to a gener­ous do­na­tion from the Cologne lawy­er Haubrich, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig holds one of the most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of Ex­pres­sion­ism in Eu­rope, al­so in­cor­po­rat­ing the New Ob­jec­tiv­i­ty and other trends of Clas­si­cal Mod­er­nism. Al­ready in the 1920s Haubrich be­gan compil­ing works by con­tem­po­rary, and pre­dom­i­nant­ly Ger­man artists, in­clud­ing such high­lights as the Por­trait of Doc­tor Hans Koch by Ot­to Dix (1921) (the very first mod­ern paint­ing in the col­lec­tion) and The Dream­ers (1916) by Emil Nolde, as well as Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­n­er’s fa­mous Half-Length Nude with Hat (1911), which was ex­hibit­ed at the Venice Bien­nale as ear­ly as in 1925. Among the col­lec­tion’s ma­jor works are al­so pie­ces by Marc Cha­gall, Karl Hofer, Hein­rich Ho­er­le, Wil­helm Lehm­bruck, and Pau­la Mod­er­sohn-Beck­er. Wa­ter­col­ors rep­re­sent the nu­cleus of the col­lec­tion and paint­ings its sub­s­tance, while sculp­tures round out the works.
The Mu­se­um Lud­wig al­so hous­es an im­por­tant col­lec­tion of works by Max Beck­mann, in par­tic­u­lar from the Lil­ly von Sch­nit­zler Be­quest.

A Pop Art Col­lec­tion for Cologne—the Found­ing of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig

Ex­act­ly thir­ty years lat­er, another spec­tac­u­lar gift caused a sen­sa­tion and led not least of all to the found­ing of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig as an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion: in 1976 the col­lec­tors Peter and Irene Lud­wig do­nat­ed their inim­itable col­lec­tion of Amer­i­can Pop Art to the Ci­ty of Cologne, with the stip­u­la­tion that the ci­ty build an in­de­pen­dent mu­se­um for the new col­lec­tion (read more about the his­to­ry of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig here).

As ear­ly as in the mid-1960s, Peter and Irene Lud­wig be­came en­thu­si­asts of the art of Amer­i­can Pop artists, who were still com­plete­ly un­known in Ger­many and rev­o­lu­tio­nary, first cap­tur­ing the public’s at­ten­tion at doc­u­men­ta 4 in Kas­sel. Along with Roy Licht­en­stein’s fa­mous blonde in M-Maybe (A Girl’s Pic­ture) (1965) and Claes Ol­d­en­burg’s Soft Wash­s­tand of the same year, Tom Wes­sel­mann’s Great Amer­i­can Nude No. 98 (1967) al­so made its way from doc­u­men­ta di­rect­ly in­to Peter Lud­wig’s col­lec­tion. To­day they are among the high­lights of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and thus part of the largest Pop Art col­lec­tion out­side of the Unit­ed States. The Lud­wigs—who had up to then col­lect­ed chie­f­ly an­cient and me­die­val art—were fas­ci­nat­ed by the im­me­di­a­cy and fresh­ness of the artists’ ap­proach to re­al­i­ty. Roy Licht­en­stein, Andy Warhol, Claes Ol­d­en­burg, James Rosen­quist, Robert Rauschen­berg, and Jasper Johns were of their own gen­er­a­tion; their works em­bodied a mod­ern at­ti­tude to­ward life and con­veyed a sense of the here and now that was strik­ing­ly dif­fer­ent from the time­less qual­i­ty in the oeu­vre of Pi­cas­so, whose works Peter and Irene Lud­wig had col­lect­ed with com­para­ble in­ten­si­ty.

Pab­lo Pi­cas­so

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s col­lec­tion can­not be ad­e­qu­ate­ly de­scribed with­out dis­cuss­ing the works that it hous­es by the cen­tu­ry artist Pab­lo Pi­cas­so. Thanks to three do­na­tions by Peter and Irene Lud­wig—the last on the oc­ca­sion of the in­sti­tu­tion’s re­open­ing af­ter the Wall­raf-Richartz Mu­se­um moved in­to a new build­ing of its own—­Cologne now has the third largest Pi­cas­so col­lec­tion in the world af­ter Paris and Barcelo­na. It com­pris­es not on­ly paint­ings from all of the artist’s cre­a­tive pe­ri­ods, such as the Har­le­quin (1923) and Wo­m­an with Ar­ti­choke (1941), but al­so nu­mer­ous ce­ram­ics and sculp­tures, in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal plas­ter piece Wo­m­an with Pram (1950) and the monu­men­tal head of Do­ra Maar.
That through­out his life­time Pi­cas­so placed a great deal of val­ue in draw­ing and graph­ics within his oeu­vre is al­so de­mon­s­trat­ed in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion: it is the on­ly public in­sti­tu­tion to own all three large print cy­cles by the mas­ter, the Vol­lard Suite (1930-37), Suite 345 (1968), and Suite 156.

Rus­sian Avant-Garde Paint­ing

Be­sides Amer­i­can art, the Lud­wig’s com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of Rus­sian Avant-Garde art from 1905–35 al­so made its way to the Mu­se­um Lud­wig as a gift. Artists such as Na­talia Goncharo­va, Mikhail Lari­onov, Alexan­der Rodchenko, and Kaz­imir Male­vich be­lieved in the utopia of an art that was meant to serve a class­less so­ci­e­ty. To­day, they and many of their con­tem­po­raries are rep­re­sent­ed in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, which, with over 600 works, boasts the most im­por­tant public col­lec­tion of Rus­sian art in the West.

Ab­s­tract Trends

Mark Rothko’s lu­mi­nous col­or fields and Frank Stel­la’s ge­o­met­ric pat­tern paint­ings, along with Jack­son Pol­lock’s fa­mous drip paint­ings and Mor­ris Louis’s re­duc­tive, col­or­ful col­or stripes are just a few ex­am­ples of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s sig­ni­f­i­cant col­lec­tion of ab­s­tract ten­den­cies from the 1960s. It is not on­ly com­prised of paint­ings, but al­so in­cludes three-di­men­sio­n­al works by Min­i­mal and Con­cep­tu­al artists such as Do­n­ald Judd, Carl An­dre, and Eva Hesse, and the ab­s­tract sculp­tures of David Smith.

More­over, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s col­lec­tion re­flects ear­ly ab­s­tract ten­den­cies of the 1950s and 1960s in Eu­rope, fea­tur­ing works by, for in­s­tance, Jean Dubuf­fet, Lu­cio Fon­ta­na, Pierre Sou­lages, Wols, and Hans Har­tung. Artists of the Ger­man Art In­formel, such as K. O. Götz or Ber­nard Schultze, whose es­tate has been pre­served in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig since 2005, are like­wise rep­re­sent­ed.

Rhine­land: Ger­many's Art Cap­i­tal

As Amer­i­can Pop Art al­so be­came known in Ger­many in the mid-1960s and was shown in this coun­try for the first time with the ex­hi­bi­tion Kunst der sechziger Jahre—Samm­lung Lud­wig (Art of the Six­ties—The Lud­wig Col­lec­tion) at the Wall­raf-Richartz Mu­se­um, it did not go un­no­ticed by the Rhine­land’s younger gen­er­a­tion of artists. Ger­hard Richter and Sig­mar Polke re­ferred di­rect­ly to this com­plete­ly new art from the Unit­ed States in their works. Polke adopt­ed the mo­tifs of Pop Art, high­light­ing their ar­bi­trari­ness in or­der to ques­tion any sort of con­tent-re­lat­ed mean­ing they might have, while Richter, like Warhol, used pho­to­graph­ic im­ages from the me­dia and pri­vate sphere to then en­large them in “blurred” fashion in his paint­ings. Both artists were dis­cov­ered very ear­ly on by the Lud­wigs and to­day are rep­re­sent­ed in the mu­se­um’s col­lec­tion with ma­jor works. In the 1970s and 1980s the Rhine­land, and Cologne and Düs­sel­dorf in par­tic­u­lar, de­vel­oped in­to a cen­ter of in­ter­na­tio­n­al artis­tic ac­tiv­i­ty, some­thing al­so re­flect­ed in the mu­se­um’s col­lec­tion: if the Düs­sel­dorf Acade­my of Art, with its pro­fes­sor Joseph Beuys, played an im­por­tant role in forg­ing a new, genre-cross­ing art—Beuys and, for in­s­tance, his stu­dent Jörg Im­men­dorff are rep­re­sent­ed in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig with ma­jor work­s—the “hunger for pic­tures” al­so helped the paint­ing of A. R. Penck as well as Ge­org Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz gain recog­ni­tion. In the 1980s the Mu­se­um Lud­wig ac­quired key groups of works by all th­ese the artists. Around the same time, a new gen­er­a­tion be­gan pur­su­ing nov­el artis­tic per­spec­tives with anarchic wit and sub­tle hu­mor. The works by Martin Kip­pen­berg­er, Markus Oehlen, Ge­org Herold, and Rose­marie Trock­el in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s col­lec­tion are among the lead­ing ex­am­ples of con­tem­po­rary art.

Up to the Pre­sent

In dia­logue with the col­lec­tion, new cours­es have been cont­in­u­al­ly set up to the pre­sent. In the last de­cade, for in­s­tance, the col­lec­tion’s fo­cus on paint­ing has been sup­ple­ment­ed by im­por­tant sculp­tures and in­s­tal­la­tions ac­quired from artists such as Ge­orges Adéag­bo, Stephen Pri­na, Cady No­land, Isa Gen­zken, and Phyl­li­da Bar­low. In­ter­na­tio­n­al artists whose works and ex­hi­bi­tions were in­flu­en­tial in the Rhine­land in the 1990s, in­clud­ing An­drea Fras­er, Chris­tian Philipp Müller, Chris­to­pher Wool, and Mike Kel­ley, are now al­so rep­re­sent­ed in the col­lec­tion. In ad­di­tion, con­tem­po­rary art is cont­in­u­al­ly in­te­grat­ed with tar­get­ed purchas­es of works by young artists. To­day, new crit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in paint­ing, ex­em­pli­fied by Lu­cy McKenzie, per­for­mance pie­ces like those by Ro­man On­dak, and video in­s­tal­la­tions by Cle­mens von Wede­mey­er en­rich the col­lec­tion.

In 1986 the Mu­se­um Lud­wig estab­lished its Video Col­lec­tion in or­der to em­pha­size the in­de­pen­dent sta­tus of artis­tic works in mov­ing pic­tures. In­deed, as ear­ly as in the 1970s and pri­or to the found­ing of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, films by Bruce Nau­man, Ed Ruscha, Richard Ser­ra, and Bruce Con­n­er, en­tered in­to the col­lec­tion of the Wall­raf-Richartz Mu­se­um and are now housed in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. To­day, all films, videos, sound in­s­tal­la­tions, me­dia art, and per­for­mances are col­lect­ed and ex­hibit­ed as part of con­tem­po­rary art.

From Pi­cas­so to Polke: The Graph­ics Col­lec­tion

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s Graph­ics Col­lec­tion hous­es around 3,000 draw­ings and near­ly 10,000 graph­ic work­s—hold­ings that are owed chie­f­ly to benev­o­lent sup­port­ers. One area of em­pha­sis is Ex­pres­sion­ism; another is rep­re­sent­ed by the graph­ic works of Pi­cas­so.

More­over, the mu­se­um al­so hous­es the col­lect­ed edi­tions of Mar­cel Broodthaers, Sig­mar Polke, and Lu­cy McKenzie. The col­lec­tion is cont­in­u­al­ly kept up to date through purchas­es and do­na­tions of works by, among others, Ge­org Baselitz, David Shri­g­ley, Sis­ter Cori­ta, Maria Lass­nig, Bethan Huws, and Car­oll Dun­ham.

Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig is among the first mu­se­ums of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art to have estab­lished a col­lec­tion de­vot­ed en­tire­ly to pho­tog­ra­phy. The de­part­ment of pho­tog­ra­phy was found­ed in 1977—­to­day it pre­serves one of the largest and most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of pho­to­graphs of the nine­teenth and twen­ti­eth cen­turies (more about the Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion).

In re­cent de­cades, the col­lec­tion has been brought up to date via purchas­es and gifts, in­clud­ing works by An­dreas Gursky, Tho­mas Ruff, Wolf­gang Till­mans, Chris­to­pher Wil­li­ams, and Sh­er­rie Levine.

Col­lect­ing and Do­nat­ing—Yes­ter­day and To­day

Time and again, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig re­vives the tra­di­tion of col­lect­ing and do­nat­ing. The large ex­hi­bi­tion on the oc­ca­sion of the in­sti­tu­tion’s re­open­ing—Mu­se­um unser­er Wün­sche (Mu­se­um of Our Wish­es, Novem­ber 11, 2001–April 28, 2002) or­ganized un­der Di­rec­tor Kasper König—ap­pealed di­rect­ly to the public spir­it of Cologne’s resi­dents and to all mu­se­um vis­i­tors to ac­tive­ly take part in the for­ma­tion of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and to purchase se­lect­ed works of art to do­nate them to the mu­se­um. Since then the col­lec­tion has been con­sis­tent­ly ex­pand­ed with sub­s­tan­tial pie­ces of con­tem­po­rary art.
In Oc­to­ber 2013 Di­rec­tor Philipp Kais­er is un­veil­ing a new pre­sen­ta­tion of the col­lec­tion, bring­ing trea­sures out of stor­age and dis­play­ing new ac­qui­si­tions. The as­ser­tive ti­tle Not Yet Ti­tled makes it clear that the mu­se­um is a place where the his­to­ry of art is viewed from the per­spec­tive of the pre­sent, and per­pe­t­u­al­ly per­ceived, eval­u­at­ed, and al­so rewrit­ten anew.